Pizza is a traditional Italian dish in the form of a thin round flatbread covered with tomato sauce, pieces of cheese, meat, vegetables, mushrooms and other products. Modern pizza as we know it today became popular in the late 18th century. Then it was exclusively street food. But in 1889, the King and Queen of Italy visited Naples and tasted all sorts of variations of the dish. The favorite was the pizza of the Neapolitan chef Rafael Esposito from Brandi pizzeria. He garnished the pizza with soft white cheese, red tomatoes and green basil, representing the colors of the Italian flag. Raphael named the pizza after Queen Margaret of Savoy and asked for the royal seal to be placed on his pizzeria.
A thank you note still hangs on the wall of the Brandi Pizzeria, owned by the chef’s descendants.
But despite its popularity in Italy, no one outside the kingdom knew about pizza. Everything changed only at the beginning of the 20th century, when the Italians who immigrated to America brought culinary culture with them. One of the first documented pizzerias in the United States was G. Lombardi’s on Spring Street in Manhattan, licensed to sell pizza in 1905. In the 1940s and 1950s, the dish gained a lot of popularity in the United States, and in October 1984, Jerry Durnell, publisher of Pizza Today magazine, hosted what is known today as National Pizza Month.
The classic Italian pizza dough is made from special durum wheat flour, with a high protein content (at least 14-15%), natural yeast, salt, water and olive oil. It is kneaded by hand and left for two hours. After that, the dough is divided into balls and allowed to infuse for about 8 hours. First, with the fingers, and then with the palms of the workpiece, a round base is rolled out and stretched, about 3-4 millimeters thick and 31-32 centimeters in diameter. The dough is covered with tomato sauce or its analogs, for example, white (creamy) sauce. After that, it is possible to add almost any fillings:
- Cheese, usually mozzarella, as well as provolone, cheddar, parmesan, feta, and other cheeses.
- Fruits and vegetables: garlic, artichoke hearts, eggplants, olives, capers, onions, spinach, tomatoes, green chili peppers, pineapple and others.
- Mushrooms, usually champignons or porcini, less often truffles.
- Meat products: salami sausages, pepperoni, Italian ham, bacon, beef, and chicken.
- Seafood: anchovies, tuna, salmon, shrimp, octopus, squid, mussels.
- Herbs and spices: basil, oregano, black pepper, chili.
- Nuts: cashews, pistachios and pine nuts.
- Oil: olive, walnut or truffle.
The classic pizza is baked in the Pompeian wood-fired oven. The temperature inside can reach 370-400 ° C. In this regard, pizza in such an oven is cooked in only about 90 seconds.
Depending on the recipe, the pizza is sprinkled with various spices such as ground oregano, black pepper and green basil, lightly shower with olive oil.
Neapolitan pizza is made from San Marzano tomatoes grown on the volcanic plains south of Vesuvius and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, made from the milk of buffalo grown the marshes of Campania and Lazio. It is a traditional product with guaranteed quality in Europe, and the art of its cooking is included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
American pizza often contains vegetable oil in its dough, not always olive oil, which cannot be found in traditional Italian recipes. The amount and composition of the filling, as well as the size of the pizza itself, can vary within a very wide range. In addition, American pizza (at least with a thin crust) uses flour with a high gluten content (often 13-14%). This dough can be stretched without tearing.
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